Judges

Former CEO and Managing Director, Sky Sports

Board Advisor, WePlay

Barney Francis worked at Sky Sports for 23 years until January 2020. He joined Sky in 1996 as an Assistant Producer and went on to Produce, Direct and Executive Produce a huge range of live coverage, wider programming and sport news content. His production credits include the Premier League, UEFA Champions League, Test cricket from around the world, the ICC Cricket World Cup, US Open Tennis, Soccer Am, Sky Sports News, speedway, pool and more. Barney helped the ECB create the new Twenty20 cricket format back in 2001 and produced Sky’s and Europe’s first ever HD broadcast with the 2006 England vs Sri Lanka Test Match at Lord’s.

In 2009 Francis was appointed Managing Director of Sky Sports. During his tenure Sky Sports was transformed; in its on screen coverage, in the range of sports it broadcasts, in its digital and mobile delivery and in its working culture. Against a background of increased competition in the sector, Sky Sports continued to grow strongly on the back of constantly improved coverage and a broader portfolio of rights. 

Francis added major events to Sky’s portfolio including Formula 1, the Masters, The Open, GAA and the NBA, while also increasing the number of Premier League matches shown on Sky to 126. He was also responsible for a change in direction in boxing, choosing to singularly partner with Matchroom and to reintroduce PPV, a strategy that reaped almost £250m in PPV boxing revenue in the last 5 years. Alongside this, Sky Sports has gone beyond major events, showcasing more than 50 different sports and pioneering coverage of women’s sports, including netball, golf, cricket, rugby and boxing, and hosting the annual Sportswoman of the Year Awards since 2013.

Sky Sports has also expanded enormously over the Decade, increasing the number of channels it offers from 4 dedicated sport channels to 11.  In 2017 Sky Sports launched genre channels, with dedicated Premier League, cricket, golf, football and Formula 1® channels allowing customers easier access and offering unparalleled levels of coverage for sports fans.

Francis ensured that Sky Sports continued to lead technological innovation in sports broadcasting, with developments in 3D, Ultra HD, virtual reality, and the expansive and ever-growing digital and online presence of Sky Sports. He took Sky Sports into a new purpose-built home within Sky Studios, Europe’s most environmentally friendly TV facility. More than anyone, he turned major sporting contests into wider events on Sky, with more coverage, better programming, greater insight, wider angles and fresh perspectives for the sports viewer and fan to enjoy. This led to 3 Baftas, 6 RTS Awards and 2 Broadcast Awards in the past decade.

He was also tireless in making a significant impact off screen and his leadership allowed Sky to support sport at all levels. Breakthrough partnerships included cycling and using the power of sport to improve young people’s lives through Sky Sports Living for Sport. During his leadership of Sky Sports, Sky’s investment in sport grew significantly. Whilst this investment has changed the way sport is covered on TV, it has also allowed sports organisations in the UK and Ireland to attract the best talent, build world-class facilities and develop grassroots programmes.

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